In This Review

Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis
Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis
By Brahma Chellaney
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013, 424 pp

Chellaney sketches a bleak picture of water scarcity in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, regions also struggling with unstable governments and rapidly growing populations. What Chellaney calls “water stressed conditions” are also appearing in developed countries, such as Australia, Spain, and South Korea. Even the deep-water aquifers that support modern agriculture in North America are dwindling. But will the social and environmental stresses of water shortage lead to conflict and armed violence? On that question, Chellaney’s book is more speculative. Conflicts over water have already embroiled states along the Nile basin, in Africa, and along the Tigris-Euphrates basin, in the Middle East, and the war in Darfur has at least partly been driven by clashes over access to water in Sudan’s far west. Chellaney makes it clear that such conflicts will become more common as water begins to be “used as a weapon,” as a recent U.S. intelligence assessment predicted, at least in a metaphoric sense, as upstream countries deny water to downstream ones. But water scarcity seems less likely to spark resource wars than to more broadly contribute to the general deterioration of social and environmental life on the planet.